Autistic and Mute 6-year-old North Carolina Boy Mysteriously Vanishes, FBI Joins Urgent Search

42405852_538708959924223_3193468038963789824_n (1)
Six-year-old Maddox Ritch went missing in Gastonia, North Carolina on Saturday and has not been seen since. Gastonia Police Department/Facebook

A state-wide hunt for a missing six-year-old boy with autism will now be assisted by the FBI.

Six-year-old Maddox Ritch was at the park with his father on Saturday when he disappeared. Maddox's father said he lost sight of his son at around 1:30 p.m. in Gastonia, North Carolina. He has not been seen since. More than 100 volunteers spent the weekend searching for Maddox, who lives with autism and is described as non-speaking.

Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley told WSOC that the father and son were walking around the Rankin Lake Park when Maddox disappeared. "They got around to the back side of the lake," Bagley said. "He started running, according to the parents, and when they started running after him, they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him ever since."

FBI Charlotte announced on Twitter that it would join "more than two dozen agencies" in helping to find Maddox. "We're going to explore all possibilities, including abduction," FBI special agent JAson Kaplan said, according to ABC News. "But we're also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure that he's not simply lost."

Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with "I am the man" printed on the front, and black shorts. He is around four-feet tall and has blonde hair and blue eyes.

Gastonia police chief Robert Helton held a press conference on Sunday afternoon and called on anyone to provide information. "If you were at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox or took video or photos of their outing at the park, call us.

"We know a lot of people were in the park and we have spoken to many of them, but we have not spoken to everyone. No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case," Helton said.

Volunteers and officials have combed more than 1,400 acres of land surrounding Rankin Lake Park in the past two days. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department sent out a helicopter on Sunday night for an aerial view. It managed to get in a short search during daylight before switching to infrared. The park has been closed off to the public indefinitely.

The Gastonia Police Department is sharing regular updates on its Facebook page.

Anyone with information should call officials immediately on 704-869-1075.